Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mars Ski Report: Snow is Hard, Dense and Disappearing

Global warming on Mars?

In the other study, led by Michael C. Malin, features at the south pole were observed to retreat by up to 10 feet (3 meters) from one Martian year to the next. The odd shapes -- circular pits, ridges and mounds -- were first photographed in 1999. Since then, the features have eroded away by up to 50 percent. The pits are growing, the ridges between them shrinking.

Caplinger and Malin caution that a year's worth of data does not reveal when this erosion began or how long it will continue. Yet they speculate that the features could have been created in a Mars' decade and may erode away completely within one to two decades. "We know that the pits we see at the surface today are not very old, and that they will not last very long," Malin said.

Water or not?

The rate of erosion suggests the features are made of moderately dense but solid carbon dioxide, rather than water ice, the scientists conclude. But that does not preclude the possibility of water ice at the south pole. "We don't know what's underneath," Caplinger said. "You could certainly have water ice under carbon dioxide." He said the only way to find out is to go there and drill down.

The newly observed melting, if it is part of a trend, could pump enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars to increase its mass by 1 percent per decade, the scientists said. Already, the atmosphere of Mars is roughly 95 percent carbon dioxide. Caplinger said no one knows for sure what effect the extra carbon dioxide might have on the climate. "Not much," he figures.

But he said many scientists assume that Mars undergoes climate change. Photos of the surface suggest water may once have flowed on Mars, implying that it would have been warmer. And Earth's ice ages offer the lesson that change is inherent in a climate.

New era of study

Despite more than three decades of Red Planet exploration, scientists are still relatively clueless about the climate of Mars, said Paige, the UCLA researcher. Continuous or recurring observations have typically been confined to short time periods. The two new studies herald a change, Paige said. And expect more.

Mars Global Surveyor is not done studying Mars, and the recently arrived Odyssey orbiter will begin science observations early next year. Other satellites and surface probes are planned every couple of years over the next decade. "We're moving toward a situation where we'll have a permanent spacecraft presence on Mars," Paige said.


Climate change and CO2

Post lifted from John Redwood's diary

For once when I asked the [British] government a written question I received an answer. I asked "How much carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere each day ,and what proportion is from human sources"

The answer stated "The amount of carbon dioxide emitted from human sources is small in comparison to natural flows:at around 3% emitted from the land and oceans to the atmosphere". The Minister also told me "In 2004 the UK emitted approximately 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per day "(I think from human sources). This compares with the "25 billion tonnes emitted each year globally" from human sources and the total emissions of 800 billion tonnes from all sources.

It is just useful to understand the scope of the problem and the UK human component. According to the government the UK human component represents 2% of the world total human emissions, or 0.06% of total emissions.

So what should we conclude? Climate change theorists point out that the human element may be very small, but it is the one which is growing quickly, and at the margin will do the damage. People who follow the precautionary principle say this theory may well be right, so we had better act. Many other people say they believe the theory but do not act - like the Prime Minister who tells us this is a serious crisis, but he has no intention of cutting his air miles.

Common sense suggests that because the UK represents such a small part of the problem, we are going to depend on decisions in India, China and the USA to make a bigger impact on human emissions. Of course our government should seek to influence them, and stress the value of greater fuel efficiency and stricter controls on emissions. We should also continue to cut our own fuel use at home, at work and on the move. Technology can be our ally in this. Prudence nonetheless dictates that we should take action now to proect ourselves against the possible bad consequences of global warming.

There are two main bad consequences put forward for the UK. The first is a possible water shortage in the drier south and east of the country. The second is too much water in some rivers at flood time, and in the sea, leading to inundation.

Government should take action now to build stronger sea defences, especially close to the London conurbation where most people are at risk. This could be paid for by creating new land in the shallows of the Thames estuary, and selling this for development to finance the higher tidal surge barriers we will need.

The government and the water regulator should include a capacity target in the regulatory structure, to require the industry to put in more water capacity - whether by way of mending pipes more quickly or building extra reservoirs - to eliminate anyt possibility of water shortage. The Environment Agency should order works on our main rivers to guarantee better containment of flood water levels, or safe deposit of excess water on flood plain.


Recently I received a communication about frogs that emphasizes the importance of confirming conventional wisdom and offers a metaphor for the human response to environmental degradation. The issue started with an email from Germany. As often happens in scientific inquiry, though the answer to the question was pretty straightforward, arriving at the answer was not. But the easy way out accepting what "everyone knows" more often than not simply perpetuates misinformation. Although finding an answer that destroys an urban myth or a commonly held belief may disappoint some people, we are better off knowing the truth.

Joe Pechmann at the University of New Orleans, who is a noted amphibian conservation biologist, received a query last month that read: "I am writing a weekly column for Die Zeit, Germany's major weekly paper, on scientific urban legends that my readers ask me about. Now you surely have heard the story of the boiling frog that is often told by consultants or activists: If you put a frog in boiling water, he will try to escape. If you put him in cold water and heat it gradually, the frog will remain in place until he's boiled, because that's the lesson, to him (and consequently to us) gradual change is not perceivable. Frankly, I don't buy this. But I am looking for professional advice (and I don't want to boil frogs). Can you help me with that question? Thanks! Christoph Droesser, Hamburg, Germany"

Joe was not sure what the answer was, so he referred Mr. Droesser to me. I also passed the buck, saying: "I have heard the anecdote many times and actually heard a Baptist preacher give a sermon in Mississippi in which he used the story of a big bullfrog in a bucket of water that was being heated. The situation was presented as an example of how gradual habituation to a devilish situation leads to acceptance of an even worse one. But with a real frog in real water, my bet is that when it began to get uncomfortable the frog would jump out if it could, long before the water started to boil. Nonetheless, consultants, activists, and others who are unaware of gradual environmental problems are responding in the way we like to think a frog acts rather than the way it does."

I went on to say, "Although I do not know a data-based answer myself, I am aware of experiments that have been done on responses of amphibians to thermal conditions. In some of the experiments the temperature was gradually raised, so I feel certain someone familiar with those studies would have an impression of what a frog would do as the water warmed up. I am sending your question to Dr. Victor Hutchison at the University of Oklahoma to see what he says. I would be interested to know also."

Vic's answer was as follows: "The legend is entirely incorrect! The `critical thermal maxima' of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so." Naturally, if the frog were not allowed to escape it would eventually begin to show signs of heat stress, muscular spasms, heat rigor, and death.

So where does that leave us with the metaphor for the human response to environmental degradation? Well the idea that you can induce a frog to remain in boiling water if you start it off in cold water is not true biologically. But that does not diminish the need to keep an eye out for the gradual relaxation of environmental laws and regulations. The metaphor lies in the frog's ability to escape from the container: if there's no way out, then the frog's fate is a foregone conclusion.


Australian PM supports new dams

Permanent water restrictions in our cities should be no more acceptable than electricity rationing, Prime Minister John Howard says. Mr Howard said he remained confident Australia could eventually drought-proof its urban centres. But with the exception of Perth, no major Australian city has invested significantly in augmenting their water supplies for decades, he said. In the case of Brisbane, decisions to build new dams were cancelled and "then nothing else was done", the Prime Minister said.

Mr Howard attacked the mentality of state governments that tried to constrain demand by imposing water restrictions instead of investing in water infrastructure. That strategy allowed the states to preserve the cash flow of their water utilities which often paid out large dividends, he said. "The continuation of the drought has shown the strategy to be a foolhardy one," Mr Howard said.

Under the plan, city water providers will be made to invest in dams, desalination plants and other infrastructure or lose federal funding. "Water solutions will vary from place to place. The truth is we have the capacity to drought-proof our large cities. "What is needed is more investment, sensible pricing and an end to state governments using water utilities as cash cows."

Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison praised the water plan. "Better late than never," she said. "The Prime Minister has also come a long way in acknowledging the needs of the environment."



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is generally to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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